Beam is a would-be “bad girl,” who has written a very good book. In a world of constrained, limited empathy, the empathic person is a non-conformist. Beam is one of those, too, and succeeds in sustaining a nuanced skepticism about the alternating hype and over-valuation of empathy over against those who summarily dismiss it. Most ambivalently, she calls out the corporate infatuation with empathy. I paraphrase the corporate approach: Take a walk in the other person’s shoes in order to sell them another pair.
Empathy breaks down into emotional contagion. Empathy breaks down in conformity and the closing off of possibilities for flourishing. Empathy breaks down in projection. Empathy breaks down in devaluing and cynical language, in which our humanity literally gets lost in translation. These are not the only ways that empathy fails, but they are the Big Four. How to overcome them?
This book contains some thirty (30) empathy lessons for life. A key empathy lesson that explicitly addresses empathy training: remove the resistance to empathy—obstacles such as cynicism, shame, guilt, aggression, narcissism, devaluing language, and so on—and empathy spontaneously shows up, comes… Read More ›
Here are Empathy Lessons for the New Year ahead. You know what would really interest me? To hear from you (dear reader) what is your empathy lesson? Whether inspired by this list or your own experience over the winter holiday… Read More ›
Putting ourselves in the situation of people who lived years ago in a different historical place and time is a challenge to our empathy. It requires historical empathy. How do we get “our heads around” a world that was fundamentally… Read More ›
Most people think that empathy is compassion; and, heavens knows, the world needs more compassion. But empathy and compassion are distinct.
Empathy is oxygen for the soul. So if you are feeling short of breath due to life stresses, perhaps one needs expanded empathy. Get some here. This is what you need to know to register. Further details on the course content… Read More ›
This work aims to be educational in a brain-storming way about the role of empathy in the community and the market for empathy services. Hanna Holborn Gray has said that “education should not be intended to make people comfortable, it is meant to make them think.” I hereby also add: The intention of education is to expand one’s empathy. Amazingly enough that is not as comfortable as many people might imagine, which brings up to the first trend – resistance to empathy.
the word itself in English “empathy” was not invented until a Cornell University psychologist, Edward Bradford Titchner, was translating (1895) one of the innovators who are credited with founding psychology as a science, namely, Wilhelm Wundt – and Titchener invented the word “empathy” to translate the German “Einfühlung”.
When one experiences the lack of empathy as a boundary issue or even a boundary violation, including a dignity violation, then the response is narcissistic rage in an attempt to get back one’s own and re-establish the boundary. I suggest this is a primitive, primary process response that is rarely well thought out or even all that adaptive – except perhaps in a context of self-defense against an immediate danger – but it is a common response. This does not jive with the average everyday understanding of empathy but it is the heart of the matter: wherever there is empathy – can narcissistic rage be far behind?